The Illusion of Accountability

Commentary by Chuck Montaño, author of Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths

Editor’s Note: Chuck Montaño, a longtime employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory, was active in the Hispanic Round Table that evolved into  Citizens for LANL Employee Rights (CLER), the group that was instrumental in fighting the lay-offs in the mid-1990s. He became a whistleblower when in his position as an auditor he exposed the fraud and mismanagement rampant at the Lab.

Recently, our two United States Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined with their colleagues to vote in favor of confirming Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Air Force—former New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson—despite the scandal of her lobbying efforts, paid for with taxpayer dollars, on behalf of the military-industrial complex and several national labs. This was a violation of law, which is why the lab contractors involved were required to reimburse taxpayers for the tens of thousands of dollars she was paid, monthly, to lobby on their behalf. This was akin to a mere slap on the wrist.

The powerful and their minions are fond of reminding us that we are a country of laws. Never said, however, is that most laws, and the judicial system as a whole, are designed to protect the interests of the privileged few. This is what my award-winning book, titled Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths, is about. It pulls back the veil of secrecy that has always served to keep taxpayers in the dark and to shield the weapons establishment from any real semblance of accountability.

We share the only inhabitable celestial body we know of in the universe with 7.5 billion other people, but yet a mere eight (8) humans (all men) own as much as 50 percent of the rest of all humanity combined. The United States has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but is responsible for 65 percent of the entire planet’s defense spending, and 22 percent of the worlds’ prison population, with one in 110 US adults sitting in jail. Why didn’t somebody warn us in advance, tell us that this was the world we’d be leaving our children? But we were warned. . . in 1961, before the notion of “alternative facts” was invented—when logic could still win an argument and most Americans still believed in science. This is the warning:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (President Dwight D Eisenhower, WWII Supreme Commander of European Allied Forces, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961)

How did things get so out of control? Indeed, how could it not have ended up this way given a political body that has grown accustomed to NOT being held accountable at the ballot box and that is now, instead, largely beholden to only those lobbyists who bankroll their reelection bids, decade after decade, just so long as they remain devoted to the interests of these lobbyists and their well-healed clients who hire them. This is how we ended up here, in this place at this point in history, with a status quo that is virtually immune to challenge, much less change.

Undermining democracy is about keeping things as they are. Covering up problems, which brings into question the judgment of leadership, is also about protecting the status quo. In Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths I provide several examples of how this occurs, and has occurred over many decades inside the nuclear weapons complex. One incident in particular stands out. It involves a major procurement fraud investigation, derailed by laboratory officials who terminated the two investigators who were involved. Both were hired by lab officials under congressional mandate to investigate. And both were terminated eleven months later for doing their jobs, similar to the recent firing of Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey. All were being pressured by their superiors to demonstrate their “loyalty” to the institution by limiting the scope of their efforts; it was implicit that they not reveal the involvement of key individuals. And when they resisted these pressures, as they were required to do by law and professional standards, they were terminated.

Obstruction of justice is the act of purposely interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation. As a nation, we don’t normally tolerate such behavior. But we no longer live in normal times, case in point being recent US Supreme Court decisions that equate money to free speech, corporations to people, and voting rights as anything but a right.

“In a healthy representative democracy, stakeholders don’t treat politicians as though they’re infallible, or expect them to be immune to the influence of money. We should, therefore, confront them publically with key questions: Do they endorse term limits for themselves and all other elected offices? If so, what are they doing to make this happen? Do they support public financing for elections and, likewise, what steps are they taking in this regard? Last, do they agree that US Supreme Court justices should be subject to impeachment or removal by voter referendum for behavior contrary to the proposition that our republic is beholden to “We the People” and not corporations? If responses to these questions are noncommittal, it’s likely the person is motivated by campaign contributions, not the public interest; more focused on being a career politician than a servant of the people. And then it is incumbent upon us, the intended beneficiaries of our form of government, to vote accordingly, regardless of political bent.” (Chuck Montano, Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths. New Mexico: Tortoise Publishing LLC, 2016, 347.)




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